Photo: Public Domain


P-51D 44-15469 “Bucephalus” from 78th FG. On this aircraft Lt. William E. Hydorn achieved an aerial

victory over a Me 262 on February 2, 1945.

was functionally related to the 66th FW and was

intended to support the 3rd BD. Administratively,

however, it fell under the 493rd BG. Its task

was to cooperate closely with the bomber

associations in weather reconnaissance en

route to the target and especially over the

target. The Mustang pilots of the 3rd SF were

initially dedicated pilots of the 55th FG, but later,

their role was taken over mainly by volunteers

- experienced former heavy bomber pilots

who completed their operational tour with the

required number of missions. They knew best

what information was needed, and when by

their colleagues flying the route behind them. In

addition to Mustangs, the unit also flew P-47s

and B-17Fs. The color identifiers of their P-51s

consisted of red trim on the leading edge of the

fillet. The different checkerboards on the cowls

were consistent with the unit that the aircraft

being flown originated with, predominantly

being the 55th FG.

For a very short time, the 66th FW also had

other groups, most of the time assigned to other

Wings – the 4th FG (1945), 56th FG (1945), 359th

FG (1943), 361st FG (1943-44, 1945) and the

479th FG (1945), possibly to the 9th AF (358th

FG). However, their temporary involvement

with the 66th FW was marginal and we only

mention them because they are mistakenly

listed as a permanent part of the 66th FW by

some sources. Despite this, one of them – the

361st FG - is worth bringing up. This unit was

a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, plugging holes

where needed. It gradually went through

service with all three FWs and at the turn of

1944/45 it was even temporarily tasked with

ground support with the 9th Air Force.

The plans for the reorganization of the 8th AF

from March 1944, included a version of things

that would see the 352nd FG falling under the

66th FW, but in the end it remained part of the

67th FW as did the 50th FG. However, after

coming to the ETO, it found itself subordinate

to the 9th AF. At the same time, the 353rd FG

was to be integrated into the 67th FW. The same

document also assigned individual FWs to

respective Bombing Divisions, but later reality

proved to be different. The 66th FW was to

support the 2nd BD, the 67th FW the 1st BD, and

the 65th FW was to accompany the 3rd BD on


Big Brothers and Little Friends

From the very first operations of American

bombers in Europe in 1942, it was clear that

the current group defense tactics of the USAAF

bombers was inadequate to deal with the

capabilities of the German Luftwaffe. Bomber

formations, at the mercy of German single

and twin-engine fighter packs, suffered heavy

losses. So much so that stopping this method of

operations was considered. This can be seen in

the raids of the 8th Air Force from the summer of

1942 and especially during the spring to autumn

of 1943. It was obvious that without high-quality

fighter protection these operations were doomed

to failure. The generally known problem was the

fact that neither the RAF nor the USAAF had the

kind of fighter aircraft that could accompany

Photo: Museum of Air Battle over the Ore Mountains, via David Jewell

A photo from early period of 8th AF bomber escorts shows a P-38 Lightning of 338th FS, 55th FG.

July 2023

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